10. The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola)
Sofia Coppola won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for her adaptation of Thomas P Cullinan’s novel, taking his tale of a man entering a world of women and bringing a distinctively female perspective, making for a different movie to Don Siegel’s 1971 version. A story about an injured Union soldier who takes shelter among the women of a small Virginian seminary during the Civil War, The Beguiled is part melodrama and part psychosexual thriller with just a dash of black comedy. An entrancing film, its tone is constantly shifting as we wonder who is manipulating who and watch a paradise become a prison. Full review.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming (John Watts)
The superhero movie continues to be the blockbuster form of the moment and 2017 offered up three good ones: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Logan and Wonder Woman. Logan was the most audacious, Wonder Woman was the most important, but for mine Spider-Man: Homecoming was the best blockbuster of the year. Part superhero movie, part John Hughes high school drama, it is energetic, funny and exuberant, and unlike Thor: Ragnarok (which I was not as high on as many others), did not sacrifice genuine emotion to get its laughs. It even has a good villain, long the achilles heel of the Marvel movies. After finally striking a deal with Sony Pictures, Marvel Studios didn’t waste the opportunity once they got their hands back on their number one commodity. Full review.
8. Baby Driver (Edgar Wright)
Edgar Wright’s stylistically ambitious action/heist/music video Baby Driver is the coolest film of 2017. More than just a film with a killer soundtrack, Wright used the music as a key structural element of his movie. Allowing songs to play out in their entirety, he choreographed the action to the soundtrack. While such meticulous planning could have made the film feel mechanical, it doesn’t. Rather the whole thing feels like a dance. While somewhat lacking at a human, character level, it is an exhilarating film experience. In light of recent revelations, though, it will be interesting to see if the presence of Kevin Spacey in the cast has any impact on Baby Driver’s replay value. Full review.
7. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)
This year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture was an intimate, nuanced coming-of-age film which marked a massive step forward for the presence of LGBTQI cinema in the mainstream. A complex exploration of African-American masculinity and adolescent homosexuality, Moonlight tells the story of its lead character at three specific points in his young life, using a different actor to portray each stage with each actor bringing something distinct to their manifestation of the character. With a visual beauty that is not common for social realist drama and some very strong performances (most notably Mahershala Ali’s Oscar winning turn as drug dealer and mentor Juan), Barry Jenkins has taken a queer, black story, which you would assume to be niche, and made it universal. Full review.
6. mother! (Darren Aronofsky)
This is probably my most controversial selection because a lot of people hated this film, and I mean properly hated it. However, I don’t think I thought about a film this year as much as I thought about mother!. Darren Aronofsky’s allegory for the relationship between humanity, nature and the creator is a challenging and confronting piece of art that is intended to elicit a strong reaction. The very definition of a film that is ‘not for everyone,’ mother! will frustrate and disgust you, making you equal parts uncomfortable and angry. But whether you love it or hate it, you will think about it and you will want to talk about it. Full review.
5. The Big Sick (Michael Showalter)
First-time screenwriters and married couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon drew on the true story of their own unconventional courtship to create the year’s best romantic comedy. Nanjiani, a stand-up comedian best known for his role in Silicon Valley, plays himself, reliving the experience of his new girlfriend (with Zoe Kazan portaying Gordon) being placed in an induced coma while his traditional Pakistani family were unaware he was seeing a white girl. With its unique scenario and examination of the migrant experience, The Big Sick takes a genre that is often derided for being a bit formulaic and makes it insightful and personal while still being incredibly entertaining. There are also some very good supporting performances from Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents. Full review.
4. Silence (Martin Scorsese)
While films like The Departed, Shutter Island and The Wolf of Wall Street have seen Martin Scorsese enjoying the most commercially successful period of his celebrated career, Silence is his most unashamedly uncommercial film in decades. Based on the novel by Shusaku Endo about Jesuit missionaries in imperial Japan (which Scorsese first read back in 1989), it is a long, slow and challenging meditation on questions of faith and doubt. Scorsese’s Catholic upbringing has always been one of the primary influences on his filmmaking, and Silence is a good companion piece to his earlier wrestles with faith in The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun. Thanks to Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography and Dante Ferretti’s production design, it is also one of the most beautiful looking films of the year. Full review.
3. La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
While thanks to Faye Dunaway, Warren Beatty and the team from Price Waterhouse Coopers La La Land is destined to be immortalised in trivia competitions as the only film to be incorrectly awarded Best Picture as the Oscars, that should not detract from how wonderful a film it is in its own right. After its haul of 14 Oscar nominations it is easy to forget how risky a proposition this film was. There hadn’t been an original musical of any significance come out of Hollywood since Newsies in 1992. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling may not be the world’s most polished singers and dancers but they share great onscreen chemistry, and with Damien Chazelle’s flair for directing with music and Justin Hurwitz’s fantastic score, La La Land was a joyous piece of uplifting, escapist entertainment. Full review.
2. Get Out (Jordan Peele)
Get Out was the film which came out of nowhere to become the cinematic talking point of early 2017 and remains the best reviewed film of the year. On the fiftieth anniversary of Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Get Out borrows that central premise – a white girl bringing her black boyfriend home to meet her unknowing family – but takes it in an entirely different, and far creepier, direction. Written and directed by Jordan Peele, best known as one half of the sketch comedy duo Key & Peele, Get Out functions simultaneously as a top-shelf piece of horror cinema and a sharp, zeitgeisty piece of social commentary. Full review.
1. I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck)
A surprise pick for number one as I doubt it is featuring on many such lists, but I saw this documentary at the Sydney Film Festival this year and it blew me away. I Am Not Your Negro brings to life author, intellectual and activist James Baldwin’s unrealised book ‘Remember this House,’ a personal account of his experience of the murders of his three friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Using archival footage of Baldwin, plus excerpts from the treatment for the unpublished work unrecognisably performed by Samuel L. Jackson, Raoul Peck tells the whole story in Baldwin’s distinctive voice. A great thinker, Baldwin was speaking hard truths in the 1960s which remain hard truths today. If you can find it, see it. Full review.
The Next Best (alphabetical): Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve), Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan), Happy End (Michael Haneke), Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi), Logan (James Mangold), Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson), The Teacher (Jan Hrebejk), War for the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves), Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins)
The Worst Movie of the Year:
Rough Night (Lucia Aniello)
Oh, how I wanted this to be good. We are in somewhat of a golden period of screen comediennes, and while dude-bros might kick up a stink about which is the appropriate gender for busting ghosts, there have been some really good female driven comedies in recent years. But Rough Night set its gender-flipping sights on a sub-genre – the massive party/night out that goes horribly wrong – which largely produces terrible films so, true to form, it is too. It even caused a small controversy, outraging the sex industry for its characters’ flippant reaction to the death of a stripper. As fate would have it, the similarly themed Girls Trip came out shortly after and received much better reviews.
By Duncan McLean
The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were announced this morning and as usual there are a few interesting inclusions and talking points, particularly in light of the diversity controversy that has surrounded the Oscars for the last few years. So who got the nod?
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
There are nine nominees for the big gong this year. The frontrunner is undoubtedly La La Land, with its fourteen nominations equalling the record shared by All About Eve and Titanic, while Arrival and Moonlight scored eight nods each. Hidden Figures has made a late charge, riding its recent box office success to a nomination. In light of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that has plagued the awards the last two years, it is notable that three (Fences, Hidden Figures and Moonlight) of the nine nominated films tell stories of African American characters (though this should be read as evidence of a strong year of black screen storytelling rather than some knee-jerk reaction from Academy voters). Nominations for Hacksaw Ridge and Lion, who both picked up six nominations, makes it a great year for Australian films, with it being the first time ever there are two Aussie films nominated for Best Picture in the same year. In terms of notable omissions, Silence was never really considered a lock but it also wouldn’t have been surprising if the industry’s reverence for Martin Scorsese resulted in it getting a nod.
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Not a lot of familiar faces this year in the Best Director field, with Damien Chazelle, Barry Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan and Denis Villeneuve all being first time nominees. Mel Gibson, who won the award for Braveheart 21 years ago, is welcomed back after a long time out in the cold. If Chazelle were to win, and he must be considered the favourite, he would become the youngest Best Director winner in history at only 32. It is also always worth looking at how this category reflects on the Best Picture field: Fences, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures and Lion being the four nominees whose directors missed out.
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Faces
This category turned out mostly as expected with the notable call here is Viggo Mortensen’s work in the small Captain Fantastic managing to keep the star power of Tom Hanks out of the field. It would appear at this stage that Casey Affleckis the clear favourite in this category based on buzz and award season performance thus far, but who knows what impact the sexual assault controversy will have on voters.
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
As has become standard, the Best Actress field is comprised of four nominees and Meryl Streep (who was no doubt helped by the buzz around her Golden Globes acceptance speech). It is an interesting field, featuring five quite different performances, but the front runners would seem to be Portman and Stone. The most notable omission, and one of the bigger surprises overall, is Amy Adams, who likely split her vote with her performances in Arrival and Nocturnal Animals attracting attention. Annette Benning in 20th Century Women and Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures were also shot but missed the cut.
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
Jeff Bridges earns his seventh Oscar nomination (for one win) here. Michael Shannon is the only other non-first time nominee. Interesting to see Aaron Taylor Johnson miss out on a nomination after winning this category at the Golden Globes. Particularly interesting given he has effectively been replaced by his Nocturnal Animals co-star Michael Shannon. Hugh Grant is also unlucky to miss out given it is he, more so than Meryl Streep, who carries the emotion of Florence Foster Jenkins. Ali the front runner.
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
Not a lot of surprises with this one. It does mark the first time three black actors have been nominated in the same category in the same year. Viola Davis, who there was some uncertainty as to whether she would be considered in the Lead or Supporting categories, is the overwhelming favourite. Naomie Harris is the only first time nominee in the field.
Best Animated Feature
Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Best Animated Feature is a really strong field this year which is reflected in the fact that Finding Dory missed out on a nomination. When was the last time the Academy couldn’t find room for a Pixar film in their Best Animated Feature field? Zootopia is probably the one to beat here.
And here is how the other nominations look…
Best Original Screenplay
20th Century Women – Mike Mills
Hell or Highwater – Taylor Sheridan
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
Best Adapted Screenplay
Arrival – Eric Heisserer
Fences – August Wilson
Hidden Figures – Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
Lion – Luke Davies
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney
Best Foreign Language
A Man Called Ove – Sweden
Land of Mine – Denmark
Tanna – Australia
The Salesman – Iran
Toni Erdmann – Germany
Arrival – Bradford Young
La La Land – Linus Sandgren
Lion – Greig Fraser
Moonlight – James Laxton
Silence – Rodrigo Prieto
Arrival – Joe Walker
Hacksaw Ridge – John Gilbert
Hell or Highwater – Jake Roberts
La La Land – Tom Cross
Moonlight – Nat Sanders and Joi McMillan
Best Sound Editing
Arrival – Sylvain Bellemare
Deep Water Horizon – Wylie Stateman and Renee Tondelli
Hacksaw Ridge – Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
La La Land – Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
Sully – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
Best Sound Mixing
Arrival – Bernard Gariepy Strobl and Claude La Haye
Hacksaw Ridge – KEvin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
La La Land – Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth
Best Production Design
Arrival – Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock
Hail, Caesar! – Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh
La La Land – David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
Passengers – Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena
Best Original Score
Jackie – Mica Levi
La La Land – Justin Hurwitz
Lion – Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
Moonlight – Nicholas Pritell
Passengers – Thomas Newman
Best Original Song
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” – La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Trolls
“City of Stars” – La La Land
“The Empty Chair” – Jim: The Jim Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana
Best Hair and Makeup
A Man Called Ove – Eva von Bahr and Love Larson
Star Trek Beyond – Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
Suicide Squad – Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson
Best Costume Design
Allied – Joanna Johnston
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Colleen Atwood
Florence Foster Jenkins – Consolata Boyle
Jackie – Madeline Fontaine
La La Land – Mary Zophres
Best Visual Effects
Deepwater Horizon – Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton
Doctor Strange – Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould
The Jungle Book – Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon
Kubo and the Two Strings – Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould
Best Documentary Feature
13th – Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish
Fire at Sea – Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo
I Am Not Your Negro – Raoul Peck, Remi Grellety and Herbert Peck
Life, Animated – Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman
O.J.: Made in America – Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow
Best Documentary Short Subject
4.1 Miles – Daphne Matziaraka
Extremis – Dan Krauss
Joe’s Violin – Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen
Watani: My Homeland – Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis
The White Helmets – Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara
Best Live Action Short
Ennemis Interieurs – Selim Azzazi
La Femme et le TGV – Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff
Silent Nights – Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson
Sing – Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardy
Timecode – Juanjo Gimenez
Best Animated Short
Blind Vaysha – Theodore Ushev
Borrowed Time – Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj
Pear Cider and Cigarettes – Robert Valley and Cara Speller
Pearl – Patrick Osborne
Piper – Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer
The 89th Academy Awards presentation will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, on 26th February.
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, J.K. Simmons
The classic movie musical, the kind the big studios churned out in the 1940s and 1950s, is largely a thing of the past. These days movie musicals tend to be layered in irony, knowingly winking at the audience in order to acknowledge the inherent silliness of the form. Movie musicals, like everything else, have become postmodern. Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, however, harks back to that bygone era. It is striking in how traditional it is, and in how earnestly it embraces its romantic, nostalgic tone.
Like so many great musicals, at the heart of La La Land is a simple story of boy meets girl. The boy is Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a talented jazz pianist who makes a living playing Christmas carols and harmless ditties in restaurants while lamenting the disappearance of the great American art form and dreaming of the day when he can open his own jazz club. The girl is Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring young actress who has moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of her dreams and now works in a coffee shop on the Warner Brothers lot. Continue reading